Saturday, April 3, 2010

Why would anyone want to buy an un-attributed work of art?

Last week I brought up the question: “Why would anyone want to buy an un-attributed work of art?” Why is the gallery of anonymous drawings at the Salon du dessin so popular?

There are actually many reasons. I believe, foremost, that we all have little of the explorer in us and wish to make a discovery. We want to discover something nobody else has which, of course, makes us feel superior, if for only a moment.

Then there is the lure of a bargain. No matter how expensive a work of art may turn out to be, one believes that it must be less than if it has a name attached to it. An un-attributed picture, however, is not necessarily inexpensive. The most costly drawing I found at the Salon with no name was 16,000 euros ($21,500) but I have seen them for much more as well. Quality is paramount.

As you may have guessed by now, I bought an un-attributed work at the Salon du dessin, in fact a most unusual one. Being fan shaped it was probably made as a design for a fan or could it have been made as a design for a set of dishes? We don’t know for sure but right now I don’t think so.

The captions above the figures refer to a wedding and they are in French. There is no question about the style of the drawing being from the 16th century. Therefore, the caption written by the exhibiting dealer logically said, “French 16th century”. French, however was not just spoken in France in the 16th century. It was also the language of the upper crust in the Netherlands as it was in Russia in the 18th century. So could it be the work of a Northern artist?

Additionally, the drawing also, is not necessarily referring to a specific wedding so it could be allegorical in nature? So many questions to answer.

It is most unusual for an art dealer to show an anonymous drawing publicly before having completed his or her research. I wanted to share these thoughts, however, when they were pertinent and who knows someone who receives this missive may have an idea they would be willing to share!

When the drawing arrives in New York, with the original in hand, we will speak with scholars, go to the Frick Art Reference Library and search for similar and related works. When we have exhausted our resources the drawing will either be attributed or still a mystery… some puzzles are never solved. Then and only then will it be available for sale. The investigation is part of the fun of being involved with art.

Art lovers are not just explorers but detectives as well.

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